Girl Fight, though. Girl Fight. A game about girls having a fight.
Even the name is amazing, a bit like calling The Last of Us ‘Planthead Badness’ or naming Bioshock Infinite ‘Floaty City Gunshoot Festival’.
Strangely though, there’s an attempt to make all of this girl-oriented fighting make sense. See, all the characters have been snatched away by a sinister corporation known as ‘The Foundation’ and… well, they’ve wound up imprisoned in some sort of virtual reality program to somehow further its nefarious deeds. There’s an AI overseer named Chrome that’s decided to help them out, but only if they can kick the ever-living hell out of one another and earn their freedom. Or maybe she just wants to overwrite the winner’s brains and take over her body in the real world. Who knows?
As it turns out, nobody does. There aren’t any individual endings for any of the characters, which is odd given the emphasis on character building – or at least fleshing out their back stories. It’s a bit tough to build character or personality when none of the characters can actually talk. They can grunt a bit, but that’s it. Even Chrome’s narration seems to have been filtered through a budget text-to-speech program.
However, as previously mentioned, it’s called ‘Girl Fight’. Girls fight in it. So how’s the fighting? Well… pretty mediocre, really. Worse than mediocre actually, straddling the thin line between ‘borderline acceptable’ and ‘completely inept’. It’s stiff, clunky and the sub-par graphics cause the action to stutter quite frequently even when there’s no graphical grunt being applied.
Bouts are of the traditional one versus one format in a variety of enclosed arenas. Players can choose two psionic supplements – super attacks, if you will – which can tip the scales in their favour by allowing them to, for example, steal health off their opponents, hammer them with a shock-wave or turn their skin to steel to diminish damage received.
It’s an okay idea, but there’s one simple problem – the action itself is utterly mindless against the AI. On normal difficulty it’s easy to finish each character’s arcade mode without losing a bout by simply repeating one of their combos over and over again. The AI never adapts, and attempting a more skilled, nuanced approach is likely going to put you at a disadvantage – blocking, for example, basically just sends a signal to the AI that it’s time to throw you. Which it will, within the tiniest fraction of a nanosecond.
There are efforts to spice things up – there’s a counter system in place for reversing the opponent’s attacks, certain attacks can stun and every character has their own combo set (I can barely believe that I’m adding that particular piece of information into the review) but on the whole there isn’t a great deal of subtlety to the combat engine. It’s really just about hammering your opponent’s face in before they do the same to you, and there’s very little in the way of reading their attack patterns and adapting accordingly with precision timing carrying the day. Weight and momentum are practically absent from attacks, lending the whole experience a very scrappy feel.
What Girl Fight does right, however, is the amount of peripheral goodies available to unlock. Fighting earns credits which can be put towards performance enhancing psionic power ups or characters bios which help flesh out how they ended up in their current predicament. There’s even an art gallery which allows players to purchase illustrations of the female cast posing in respectful, everyday situations that they might normally find themselves in. The only difference is that their clothes happen to be either absent or somehow falling off, as if some calamitous event has eradicated the correct amount of friction required so that these garments don’t just slide clean off their bodies. It’s pretty deep stuff, really.
It would be pretty easy to dismiss Girl Fight outright as a bad game. In a lot of ways it is, but I’m not going to do that. The truth is that I actually had some fun with the game – not because of its deep, nuanced combat system (it doesn’t have one), nor the fairly clumsy attempts at titillation. Nope, I appreciated Girl Fight for another reason entirely: It feels so much like those low tier fighting games that tried to compete with Tekken, Toshinden and Virtua Fighter all those years ago that it spurred my nostalgia glands into overdrive.
Thing is though, I can’t see a lot of people falling into the same category of creaky old gamers still getting misty eyed over stuff like Zero Divide who are willing to give it the benefit of the doubt – compared to established competition like Dead or Alive or Virtua Fighter, Girl Fight undoubtedly comes up short and the budget price alone isn’t enough to recommend it over games like those which actually have accomplished fighting mechanics backing them up.